Media Basics about POLST

POLST has evolved, in every way, including the term itself. Some basics to understand and promote when explaining anything about POLST:


  1. POLST does not “stand for” anything. POLST is now a term in itself, not an acronym. National POLST stopped using the phrase “physician orders for life-sustaining treatment” in 2018 for many reasons, including the fact that the health care professionals involved, though this varies from state to state, are not limited to just physicians. We refer to POLST as a portable medical order. “POLST” no longer represents an acronym at all. Read more about this decision, starting at page 10, in the National POLST Form Guide for Professionals (PDF).
  2. POLST is not intended for everyone; it’s specifically for certain people. We’ve refined this language over time, to help it be understood more easily while using accurate and accessible terminology. We describe the population appropriate for POLST as “patients who are considered to be at risk for a life-threatening clinical event because they have a serious life-limiting medical condition, which may include advanced frailty” or, much more simply, “people who are seriously ill or frail.” Read more in our Intended Population & Guidance for Health Care Professionals (PDF).
  3. Our logo has also changed (and continues to evolve) over time for many reasons, including the fact that it no longer stands for a phrase. Please ask us for logo files if you need them, explaining your purpose and planned usage, and we’ll be happy to supply you with the most recent files.
  4. What is National POLST? National POLST is the name of national nonprofit organization that assists POLST Programs across the nation, and promotes POLST at a national level. Because of the variations in state programs, National POLST aims to achieve consensus and build best practice standards nationwide.
  5. POLST Programs are mostly statewide. Exceptions: Kansas and Missouri together have a dual-state program, and the District of Columbia, by definition, is not a state, so it is not a state program, but is analogous otherwise.